Category Archives: #nowplaying

West Nkosi

Found the 45 above at Goodwill earlier this week. A couple of tunes from South African saxophonist and longtime Ladysmith Black Mambazo producer West Nkosi. (The A-side is one of his hits, “Two Mabone.”)

Feels like now is the time to share it. The sun is shining, it’s warm, it’s Friday… maybe give B-side “1815 Special” a listen or two as you’re walking out of work. Not a bad way to greet the weekend, if you ask me.

Happy Friday, y’all.

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E.C. Ball and the Friendly Gospel Singers

Following the lead of the distinguished cvcfbds Instagram account by bringing church to the turntable on this fine Easter morning.

I hope y’all are having a nice weekend, with the comforts of family and/or candy close at hand.

E.C. Ball and the Friendly Gospel Singers — “Where Could I Go” [YouTube/Discogs]

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Hiss Golden Messenger

Coming out of blog hibernation to post a great song that’s being released for a great cause.

Hiss Golden Messenger recently teamed up with the Spacebomb gang to record “Passing Clouds,” a groovy Cameron Ralston-produced tune that combines the best of what the Spacebomb process and talent pool have to offer with M.C. Taylor’s distinctive and desperately needed sense of spiritual buoyancy. The cause I mentioned earlier? Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to end gun violence via education and advocacy.

Click here to snag the song and read a powerful message from Taylor. All proceeds go to Everytown, so please do show your support by making a purchase — the digital version is $2, and you can pre-order a 7″ vinyl version for $10.

Hiss Golden Messenger — “Passing Clouds” [Bandcamp]

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Son Lux

I wrote most of this post about Son Lux drummer Ian Chang’s 2017 solo EP while sitting in a dentist’s office last summer, waiting for the local anesthesia to kick in before getting a filling put in. Here I am, sitting in the same dentist’s office — might even be the same chair — about to get another filling, starting a post about one of the tunes Son Lux has made available ahead of the February 9th release of their new Brighter Wounds album.

Coincidence?

Yes, aside from the fact that I need to be better about flossing.

“Slowly” has quickly (sorry, couldn’t help myself) jumped way up my list of favorite Son Lux tunes. I feels like a bit of a departure — narrower in scope, maybe, and more personal, but no less ambitious. In fact, this is one of the most interesting examples of deconstruction I’ve heard in a long time. “Slowly” strips the classic R&B form to its basic elements, something the band manages to do with great precision thanks to Chang’s phenomenal internal clock.

Take a listen below. And don’t forget to floss before you go to bed tonight.

Son Lux — “Slowly” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet

This came in the mail yesterday — a late Christmas present from my mom, who loves to surprise me with music that’s obscure or experimental or otherwise off my radar. She’s a devoted listener of Paul Shugrue’s Out of the Box show on WHRV, and she has such a great ear, especially when it comes to atypical combinations of sounds, which is what you’ll find on Ladilikan, the collaborative album released last year by Malian griot ensemble Trio Da Kali and the long-running San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet.

While the result certainly feels novel, this isn’t a case of worlds colliding. The common ground here seems harmonious and comfortable — comforting, even. They included a cover of a gospel tune called “God Shall Wipe All Tears Away,” and it reminds me a little of the uber-soothing rendition of Stephen Foster’s “Slumber My Darling” sung by Alison Krauss on Heartland: An Appalachian Anthology. According to the extensive liner notes in the vinyl edition of Ladilikan, Kronos’ musical director fell for the song after hearing Mahalia Jackson’s version, and Trio Da Kali vocalist Hawa ‘Kassé Mady’ Diabate — daughter of Malian singing legend Kassé Mady Diabate — renders the song beautifully.

Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet — “God Shall Wipe All Tears Away” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Lucy Dacus

I’ve been in the list-making bunker, trying to figure out how to wrangle a whole mess of albums I really enjoyed this year, but I thought I’d step out briefly to join in the celebration of Lucy Dacus’ new tune, “Night Shift.”

It’s the lead single off her upcoming album, Historian (out March 2, pre-order here), and it’s a triumph, bursting at the seams with the brilliance that made “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” such a breakout success, including:

  • Astoundingly vivid and memorable lyrics, with an opening that grabs your ears like few I’ve heard: “The first time I tasted somebody else’s spit I had a coughing fit.”
  • Emotional intelligence that permeates every word, with brutally incisive lines like “You don’t deserve what you don’t respect, don’t deserve what you say you love and then neglect.”
  • Vocals so rich and ranging that you feel like you’re along for the journey the lyrics describe.
  • A lengthy coda that opens the song up dynamically in a cathartic combination of resignation and hope.

It was that exceptional coda that stood out when I saw her perform “Night Shift” at The National in 2016, but having an opportunity to sit with the quieter moments has been rewarding, as is always the case with Dacus’ music. Forgive me if I’ve said something similar in the past while singing her praises, but Dacus’ lyrics comprise some of my favorite writing anywhere, in much the same way that John Darnielle’s Mountain Goats lyrics feel like they transcend their form. Maybe award-winning novels are in her future, as well.

On more than one level, this song makes me look forward 2018. 2017 was a year in which I found myself enjoying more new music than ever while feeling less inspired to write about it in personal terms. Some of that was time scarcity, some was political-shitstorm-related paralysis, some was focusing on writing assignments in which my life didn’t figure prominently. But “Night Shift” brings me back to a place of excitement and energy. Some musicians make you want to run to the nearest instrument and start noodling; Dacus makes me want to start typing.

Speaking of which, back to the bunker for me. Hope y’all enjoy “Night Shift” as well.

Lucy Dacus — “Night Shift” [Spotify/YouTube]

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Was just in a crowded kitchen, mashing potatoes, listening to Dori Freeman’s new album, and thinking about how great a Thanksgiving soundtrack it makes. It hit me during “Ern & Zorry’s Sneakin’ Bitin’ Dog,” a tune written by Freeman’s grandfather, Willard Gayheart — Letters Never Read is what it sounds like to be surrounded by family. Carrying forward traditions and putting your own spin on them. Enjoying the company and quirks of aunts, uncles, kids, and in-laws. Her arrangement of “Ern & Zorry’s Sneakin’ Bitin’ Dog” is as simple as it gets — just her voice — like an old recipe rendered with care. It made for a moment of calm contentment amid a chaos for which I’m very fortunate.

Whatever you’re spinning, I wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving.

Dori Freeman — “Ern & Zorry’s Sneakin’ Bitin’ Dog” [Spotify/iTunes]

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